Ten “Secrets” to a More Fulfilling Life


I can’t emphasize this first one enough. You know yourself better than anyone. Start every day with a positive attitude. You’ll be amazed at the results. To paraphrase Henry Ford, “If you believe you will succeed, you will. If you believe you won’t, you won’t. Either way, you’re right.”


In general, I’ve learned that your first inclination is usually the right one. Whether you’re hesitant to navigate a dark parking lot alone at night – or you feel a strong sense that your spouse is cheating – follow your instincts. More often than not, your initial gut feeling – which has been honed over many years by the people you’ve known, the places you’ve been, the awkward situations you’ve avoided, and the love you’ve pursued – is warning you like the singer Chris de Burgh: “Don’t pay the ferryman…until he gets you to the other side.”


Forest Gump said, “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get.” I believe that life is like the game of bowling. To succeed, you have to be consistent. That means making decisions and sticking to them. Choose a path and follow it until you find a good reason to deviate. Consistency is key. You can’t work hard one day and slack off the next. You can’t decide to be happy one day and miserable the next. Of course we’re all indecisive at times. That’s human nature. But your chances of success, at whatever you’re aiming for, will increase dramatically if you stay consistent in your beliefs, your commitments, and your general outlook on life. In the words of Winston Churchill, “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”


How many times have you heard this old saw? Too many, I’m sure. It might be trite, but it holds great philosophical value. Of course, working hard is not necessarily a bad thing. Hard work is the cornerstone of our magnificent country. Often, there’s more than one right way to do something. Don’t follow the same path with blinders on. Consider the options. Evaluate the circumstances. Make decisions based on how things truly are, not on how you want them to be. Does it make sense to stay in a dead-end job or go back to school and retrain for something new? Does it make sense to perform the same tasks over and over the same way you’ve always done them or try a different approach that’s not so physically or mentally exhausting? In the words of the late motivational speaker, Jim Rohn, “There are some things in life that you don’t have to know how it works. The main thing is that it works. While some are studying the roots, others are picking the fruits. Success just depends on which end you want to be.”


All the money in the world can’t buy you more time. At least that’s the theory. If I win the Florida Lottery I’ll test the theory and let you know how everything panned out. Of course in the end, there are still only twenty-four hours in a day. Make the most of them. Unlike money, time is something you can’t get back. On the up side, time moves mountains. It also heals old wounds. On the down side, people have a habit of wasting time like the government wastes our money. Time management is the key to success in life.

Learn to spend time on the more important things in life (family, friends, long walks on the beach, etc.) and spend less time on the things that don’t matter as much (dwelling on failed relationships, fighting with your ex, excessive television, office politics, etc.). How do you manage time? Get organized. Think before you act. Prioritize your tasks. Write lists. Avoid distractions. Don’t get bogged down on mundane chores. That pile of clean, unfolded laundry might look insightful on your bed, but it’s not going to kill you it if sits there a few days while you focus on higher priority tasks. A wise man once said, “Those who learn to manage time can learn to manage the world.”


It’s easy to hurt. It’s hard to forgive. When in doubt, I always try to err on the side of kindness. Everyone has a bad day now and then. A person’s intentions can be misconstrued. That’s human nature. You never know. One day that stranger in need might be the very person who helps you out of a jam. In the age of political correctness, it’s easy to forget that we’re on the same team. Harsh words are often met with anger. Kind words are often met with love. As the Scottish Author and creator of Peter Pan, James Matthew Barrie, once said, “Those who bring sunshine to the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves.”


I’m not talking about your stock portfolio. Millions of people in this country survive without one. Try to view life as an adventure, where the finish line is not the end but a new beginning. A new chapter, if you will. A certain amount of risk is inherent in life. We accept this every time we drive a car or pedal a bicycle in the street or approach an attractive stranger of the opposite sex. Go ahead and try that dish you’ve never tasted. Take the long way home. Try a sport you’ve never done. Read a book outside your comfort zone. Ride a motorcycle. Learn to surf. See a layoff as a new opportunity. Touch base with that old friend you hung out with in high school. Life is full of risks, big and small. It’s not the magnitude of risk that matters. It’s the willingness to take the plunge despite the possibility of negative consequences. Hockey legend, Wayne Gretzky, got it right when he said, “You’ll always miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”


Don’t let obstacles, real or imagined, stand in the way of your dreams. You are the captain of your own destiny. Although you are at the mercy of the sea at times, you can affect your direction. Be passionate about your pursuits. Don’t wait for things to fall in your lap. Be aggressive. Assertive. Martin Luther King Jr. is a shining example of this philosophy. Amelia Earhart is another. Others abound in nearly every walk of life. From the poor to the super wealthy. From Gandhi to Steve Jobs. From Olympic gold medalists to Pulitzer Prize winners. From fire fighters to prima ballerinas. None of these people achieved their dreams with a mediocre attitude or a quasi-commitment to their cause. To quote the author Ralph Charell, “Nobody succeeds beyond his or her wildest expectations unless he or she begins with some wild expectations.”


Let’s face it. There are times when change can just plain suck. But in the big picture, it’s better to accept that change is good. Like it or not, change is inevitable. The only guaranteed constant in life is change. Although change can bring obstacles, it often brings new opportunities as well. There are many things in life you can control. Change is not one of them. If you learn to embrace change, you can learn to use it to your advantage. In the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Life is a progress, and not a station.”


Patience. Another easy to talk about / hard to apply concept. If the line moves too slow, find another. If there’s no shorter line to be found, have patience. The economy will turn around, eventually. That job offer you’ve been waiting for will come around. That big promotion will finally happen. That grumpy neighbor will eventually move or die or find a hobby. Your toddler will grow out of the terrible twos. That special someone you’ve been hoping to find will find you when you least expect it. Perhaps American humorist Arnold H. Glasow said it best. “The key to everything is patience. You get the chicken by hatching the egg, not by smashing it.”

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